TRAVERSING THE GASHERBRUMS
by Per Jerberyd © 1997 – 2002
In 1984, almost 10 years after the successful ascent of Hidden Peak together with Peter Habeler, Reinhold Messner wanted to break another border in Himalayan climbing by making the first traverse of two 8,000-meter mountains.
THE FIRST TRAVERSE OVER TWO 8.000 METER MOUNTAINS
Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak) and II was the choice for the traverse. – “This was a completely new idea and one I would not have considered possible in 1975.” By this time Reinhold had turned over 40 years old and he had realized that his endurance and will power remained constant. His climbing partner was now Hans Kammerlander, a personal friend that he had already climbed Cho Oyo with.
At first, the intention was to start with Gasherbrum I and then finish through the easier Gasherbrum II. Though the avalanche danger on the west face of Gasherbrum I made them to reverse the traverse and start with Gasherbrum II. On the way to the summit of Gasherbrum II, they passed a dead body that Reinhold also had passed in 1982, at that time being accused for “climbing over dead bodies”. No problems accrued during the ascent and the conditions where good and they conserved their strength well. When passing the body on the way down, they buried the dead climber in a crevasse. Reinhold had talked to the dead climber’s family and that was their last will. The descent from Gasherbrum was made through a Steep hanging glacier filled with crevasses. Hans Kammerlander: “Common sense would most certainly have declared this forbidden territory.”
The pair erected their small bivouac tent on the saddle between Gasherbrum II and I. This was their fourth day of climbing. They continued the next day. The glacier with all seracs proved a real dangerous place, where you could get killed at any time by collapsing seracs, ice and snow.
A change in the weather had started with increasing wind. At 7,400 meters they made another bivouac. The wind was now a full storm and they found themselves in a serious situation. There, in the tent, both Hans and Reinhold suffered from hallucinations. Reinhold: “It would have been wiser to call off our traverse attempt, but at the same time it was obvious that we never would never be able to get this far again, certainly not on this trip. Perhaps never in our lifetime…”
The next morning they urged on and finally reached the summit of Hidden Peak on 28 June. They had now succeeded with something never done before, but the situation was serious and they didn’t linger on the top. The descent through the sharp West Ridge was a serious task lying ahead.
The descent proved to be extremely dangerous, close to hell. At the end of the summit snowfield, Reinhold took a serious fall: Hans Kammerlander: “He peeled of backwards into space and was away. I have known people, trained sports climbers, who in such a situation would not have come to rest till they hit the deck. But Reinhold was able to fling himself round in mid-air so that he was facing downwards, and then regain his footing several meters lower on steep, glazed rock slabs”. Further down they where close to get hit by a rock avalanche when a large rock pillar collapsed.
On the seventh day of constantly climbing, they reached the Gasherbrum Valley. Over stimulated with nerves stretched to the limit, they found it impossible to sleep. Instead they decided to descend all the way to Base Camp. A big mistake according to Reinhold: “It was a wonder, and more luck than judgement, that we did not tumble into one of the many crevasses or got wiped away by falling stones on the way down.”
The whole climb took eight days of their lives.